Velkommen til Westby

Velkommen til Westby

Monday, September 22, 2014

Our Savior’s Choirs

By Minnie Holman in 1938

About the time when some of the older members of the present choir were born, and long before the birth of its younger members, the first choir of Our Savior’s Church was organized.

Lenore Stenslien 7/13/11—2/25/98 — 70 years church organist

It was in the year 1889 that the late Theodore Saugstad was instructed by the congregation to organize and conduct a choir. As he was the church organist at the time, under the pastorate of Reverend Christian Nodtvedt, it was only natural that he should also be asked to assume the responsibilities of a choir.

When they first met they had sixteen members, all Norse pioneers. They included the following: Mina Saugstad (Mrs. Anton Running), Ellen Bratlie (Mrs. Andrew Lee), Josie Skaugh (Mrs. Carl Hagen), Clara Saugstad (Mrs. Albert Spellum), J.P. Flugstad, Anton Running, John Sinnes, Andrew Hagen, P.J. Vigdal, Peter Hagen, Hans C. Smerud, Even Saugstad, Søren Larson, Christian Skaugh, P.J. Flugstad, and Bernt Saugstad. In this earliest choir we notice that there were so many more men than women, which isn’t the case with the later choirs. Mrs. Albert Spellum was the soloist at this time.

During the years that Reverend Martin Gulbrandsen was pastor, Theodore Saugstad continued as the director, and the membership increased, the personnel added being as follows: Julia Hagen (Mrs. Ole Leum), Hilda Hagen (Mrs Nordahl Bergum), Julia Saugstad (Mrs. Gerhard Reque), Anna Sinnes (Mrs. Eddie Hanson), Inga Moen (Mrs. Henry Rentz), Olga Moen, Anna Moen ( Mrs. J.A. West), Stella Bratlie (Mrs. Frank Haley), Mrs. Mathias Frederickson (Mrs. Herbert Duxberry), Paula Vassend (Mrs. Melvin Bakken), Willie Bratlie, Joseph Flugstad, Albert Flugstad, and Olaus Flugstad.

In reminiscing some of these members, Anna Hagen (Mrs. Carl Anderson), Clara Hagen (Mrs. Herman Galstad), Millie Larson (Mrs. Neil Dahl), Lettie Larson (Mrs. L. Peterson), Ella Hagen (Mrs. Elmer Blihovde), Olga Lium (Mrs. Pete Swiggum), Martha Lium, Emma Lium (Mrs. Harstad), Mrs. Bernt Saugstad, Nora Bratlie (Mrs. Albert Hallingstad), Malla Holte (Mrs. John Peterson), Hannah Bratlie (Mrs. Harry Foster), Sina Nestingen (Mrs. Even Erickson), recalled that on the 17 of May, in 1897, the horse and buggy age, they drove to Coon Valley to sing at the celebration there at the parsonage. They sang out of the good old books “Frydetoner” and “Harpen.”

In 1907, when Reverend Sybilrud became our spiritual leader, his wife, Mrs. Sybilrud, became the director of a small group of singers, who sang only on special occasions. Those in this choir were: Clara Hagen (Mrs. Galstad), Josie Hagen (Mrs. Bennie Johnson), Stella Bratlie (Mrs. Haley), Mrs. Ole Leum (Mrs. Reuben Hagen), Mr. and Mrs. Bernt Saugstad, Pete Mickelson, Luther Roseland, and Nordahl Olson. Mrs Sybilrud had this choir meet at her home, the parsonage, which was then the home at 216 West State Street, now occupied and owned by Ole Brettingen. 

When Reverend and Mrs. Hofstad were here, there was also a choir. The pastor directed and Mrs. Hofstad accompanied on the organ.

During the pastorate of the Reverend S. O. Rondestvedt, the writer of this article became a member of the choir. Successive directors took charge during this time. We had Swanhild Rondestvedt, Agnes Rondestvedt, Rudolph Fjeldstand, and Blain Running.

In 1924, Mrs. Blanche Hagen became the choir director, and remained faithfully in charge until her death in 1935. She directed the mixed choir and organized a men’s choir, which was very much in demand at that time. A ladies’ sextet was also very active, a group consisting of the following members: Mrs. Phillip Hagen, Mrs. Minnie Holman, Mrs. Ole Leum, Maud Onsrud (Mrs. Norman Nelson), Mrs. Helen Thoreson, and Mrs. Rob Hagen (Blanche Hagen). This sextet sang at the opening program of the WKBH broadcasting station. In the year 1932 Mrs. Hagen became a paid director.

No choir can successfully continue without an able pianist and organist. And, since the year 1918 it was always found necessary to have an accompanist as well as a director. Our Savior’s Church has had for the past six years an able pianist and organist, Mrs. Pearley Stenslien, who never misses a service, funeral or choir practice, and much credit is due her for her faithfulness to duty. Other accompanists have been Olive Hagen, Helen Thoreson, Swanhild Rondestvedt (Mrs. Harry Hoidahl), Harriet Hagen (Mrs. Carmen Olson), Elna Lee, and Mrs. M.A. Egge.

Following Mrs. Hagen’s passing, Mrs. Helen Thoreson became the paid director of all the choirs. She also created a new singing organization, “The Ladies Chorus,” which really did some very fine work. She remained the director of all the choirs during the two years of Reverend Gornitzka’s pastorate up to 1937, when Reverend M.A. Egge came. He then assumed the direction of the mixed choir and the men’s choir, Mrs. Thoreson remaining the director of the Ladies’ Chorus.

Under the Reverend Egge, the choir took on new life and the 1937-1938 choir boasted of fifty-two members as follows: Sopranos, Mmes. Roy Running, Edwin Storbakken, D.M. Langve, Theophil Thoreson, Minnie Holman, Philip Hagen, Earl Evenstad, Orville Traastad, Cyrus Leum, Carl Sherry, and the Misses Beatrice Nundahl, Margelyn Masrud, Almyra Lyhus, Cora Lyhus, Vivian Struxness (Mrs. Manuel Steffrud), Pearl Olson, Jane Saugstad.

Altos: Mmes. Søren Nundahl, M.A. Egge, Victor Bakke, Reuben Hagen, Helen Thoreson, Victor Olson, and Evelyn Lyhus, and the Misses. Elna Lee, Violet Silbaugh, Jane Saugstad, Beulah Bakken, Lilah Flugstad, Ruby Flugstad, Evelyn Rude, Dagny Schee, Pearl Johnson, Mary Ann Peterson, and Dorothy Sherry.

Tenors: Harold Fredericks, Arthur Flugstad, Victor Olson, Neil Nelson, Melvin Lindvig, Hubert Werner, Chester Swiggum.

Basses: Olaus Flugstad, Grant Flugstad, Raymond Flugstad, Taylor Holman, Roy Running, John Erickson, Blaine Pederson, Orbeck Johnson, LeVerne Masrud, Reidar Pederson.

Now these choirs did not remain constant—as there were changes made from time to time, due to change of residence, to attending schools, and other reasons. some who sang at one time or other have not been recorded, as it happens that the particular choir in which they sang was not listed. Among these are the following: Mrs. Alma Bratlie, Mrs. Christian Froiland, Mrs. Erling Holte, Mrs. Myron Thoreson, Arlene Johnson, Stella Barstad, Burdella Berger, Eleanore Swiggun, Esther Swiggum, Stella Swiggum, Ada Hallingstad, Dagmar Lee, Esther Hallingstad, Gladys Hallingstad, Gertrude Dahle, Hjordis Gornitzka, Rachel Sveum, Nellie Olson (Mrs. Peterson), Lois Hagen, Olive Leum, Gladys Olson, Archer Funk, Dick Grimsrud, Harold Ostrem, Joel Ostrem, Harold Erickson, Elton Thoreson, Kenneth Flugstad, Rolf Gornitzka, Reuben Gornitzka, Clarence Justin.

Among the places where the choirs have sung are conventions in La Crosse, Viroqua, Cashton, Westby, Mt. Sterling and Esofea. Smaller groups have from time to time sung at Luther Leagues in the circuit, and at funerals. The choirs have rendered several cantatas, the most recent of which is the “Reformation Cantata,” sung on April 3, 1938, as a concert in the church and the same evening repeating the performance over station WKBH, La Crosse. This cantata is being presented again at our fiftieth church anniversary.

To Agnes Rondestvedt (Mrs. Alvin Snesrud) goes the credit for organizing a Junior Choir in the year 1928, which she directed up to the time of her marriage and subsequent leaving for Los Angeles, California, in 1931. The Juniors were then taken over by Mrs. Minnie Holman, who was the director for four years. It was during these years that this choir each year presented in story and song “The First Christmas Night” at the Christmas Sunday School programs. Mrs. Helen Thoreson was organist for the choir during these renditions.

Among the members of the Junior Choir at that time were the following: Elna Lee, Frances Lee, Ada Hallingstad, Evelyn Hagen, Stella Barstad, Elaine Larson, Eleanore Swiggum, Grace Brothen, Gertrude Dahle, Alvina Johnson, Stella Swiggum, Evangeline Nestingen; Arlene Johnson, Avonelle Swenson, Myra Haakenson, and Clara Evenson. Mrs. Helen Thoreson directed the Junior Choir from 1935 to 1937 when Mrs. M. A. Egge assumed charge up to and including the present time.

No records have been kept except for the past few years, so we had to rely mainly on memories for the data. So if we inadvertently left out someone, it was because those names were not brought to our attention, and we beg your pardon.

WCCU Celebrates 75 years

Eddie Saugstad and son leaving the REA
office that included office space for the
new Westby Cooperative Credit Union
On August 23, the Westby Cooperative Credit Union (WCCU) marked their 75th Anniversary.

WCCU has experienced many changes during the past 75 years in business. They were organized in 1939 by a group Vernon County farmers, H.O. Melby, Orville Lunde, Aloius P. Thelen, Carl Freitag, Mandel Olson, N.F. Leifer and H. S. Halvorson.

The first WCCU organizational meeting was held at the Westby Opera Hall and its articles of incorporation were signed on Aug. 14, 1939. Richard Grimsrud was elected the first board of director president and WCCU’s first ever monthly meeting was held on Sept. 29, 1939, at REA, later named Vernon Electric.

The Fashion Cellar moved into the former
WCCU building that was at one time
the Dr. Bland Clinic and today is the
entrance to the Vernon Telephone Company.
The first WCCU branch operated out of a rented space at REA, now part of Organic Valley, offices at 100 West State Street in downtown Westby. As membership grew they purchased the former Bland Clinic at 110 North Main Street, located north of Vernon Telephone Cooperative. A few year later, WCCU constructed a new building in downtown Westby on the corner of Main and Melby streets, where Westby City Hall is currently located.

In 1965, Larry Anderson was named the WCCU president and the new building was built in 1976, which provided extended service with a drive-up and a parking lot. In 1992, WCCU purchased a piece of property in the Westby Industrial Park on the north end of the city and constructed its current facility. Anderson passed away in 2003 after spending 38 years as president and Kevin Hauser was hired to replace him. WCCU expanded its Westby building in 2006, doubling its size and added an atrium.

WCCU built in 1976, now Westby City Hall
Today, WCCU operates eight branch offices in Westby, Viroqua, Cashton, Reedsburg, Lake Delton, Baraboo and two offices in Richland Center. They have $379 million in assets and continual growing pains, as shown by the recent purchase of a building in Coon Valley. The financial organization currently employs approximately 150 people and serves more than 27,000 members. The Westby office serves as the operation center and provides support to all of the branch offices. October 2014, Coon Valley was added as the ninth branch office.

The current WCCU Board of Directors includes, Bob Dickman (Chairperson), Ron Larson, Bob Devine, Marilyn Hauge, Bruce Stefferud, Monte Torgerson and Alan Berg.

Current Westby Cooperative Credit Union located on North Main Street